Politics

Melania's Middle East Wardrobe May Have Hidden Message

| by David Bonner

Melania Trump has created a buzz with her wardrobe since her arrival in Saudi Arabia on May 20.

The first lady traveled with President Donald Trump on his first major foreign trip to the Middle East, noted the Hollywood Reporter. When the couple deplaned in Riyadh, Melania was wearing a decidedly Western jumpsuit designed by Stella McCartney, daughter of famous ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

Though it's been a close ally of the U.S. for decades, Saudi Arabia is the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state in the world.

Political dissent is not tolerated in the kingdom. “Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia are an endangered species," noted Amnesty International in its most recent report on the country, issued in January. "One by one they are vanishing -- prosecuted, jailed, intimidated into silence or forced into exile -- highlighting the authorities’ zero tolerance approach to freedom of expression.”

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The country is infamous for its discrimination against women, who are not allowed to vote, drive, or participate in any other rights enjoyed by male citizens of the kingdom.

Women must also adhere to a dress code which is enforced by the religious police. In public, they are required by law to be covered in robes, hijabs (headscarves) or niqabs (which leave only a slit for the eyes), or wear a full burqa covering the body from head to toe.

However, wives and female family members of foreign dignitaries are exempted from the rule. As with Michelle Obama before her, Melania chose not to dress according to Islamic law.

Some have wondered if Melania is trying to make a political statement with her fashion choices on this trip. When she visited a GE call center in Riyadh staffed entirely by women, she wore a Ralph Lauren shirt dress and zebra print pumps, in stark contrast to the employees and their religious uniforms.

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Later in the day, she wore a tailored white pantsuit to the Arab Islamic American Summit, although women visitors are encouraged to wear ankle-length skirts. The Hollywood Reporter speculated that her pantsuit might have been sending a message that she had just as much a right to be in the room at the summit as any of the men.

As for her husband, he sealed a $130 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which Amnesty International fears will be used by the Saudi monarchy in its ongoing war in Yemen -- a war that has already created a humanitarian crisis.

Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA's communications director, released the following statement:

"This deal has President Trump throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on his way out. There is damning evidence that war crimes have been committed by the Saudi-led coalition and continuing to arm Saudi Arabia fuels serious human rights violations that are causing overwhelming civilian suffering in Yemen. President Trump finalizing this deal while simultaneously banning travel to the U.S. from Yemen is an unconscionable move.”

Sources: Hollywood Reporter, Amnesty International (2), Reuters / Photo Credit: White House/Flickr

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